There's perhaps nothing more classic than baking sugar cookies for the holidays and decorating them with plenty of icing. While the cookies are simple to make, there are a few tips and tricks to keep in mind that will ensure you bake your best batch ever. Here are five things to remember when you head into the kitchen.
1. Butter and cream cheese are the secret to great cookies.
In our opinion, the best sugar cookies have a high proportion of butter and cream cheese. That's because the larger quantity of butter makes the cookies extra tender, and the cream cheese adds a delicately tangy flavor to an otherwise mellow cookie.
2. There is such a thing as mixing the dough too much.
It can be tempting to continue to mix the dry and wet ingredients together until they are extra incorporated, but that can yield poor results. Overworking the dough causes tough cookies, which is the exact opposite of the soft, tender version you're going after. Instead, mix the ingredients together until the ingredients are just incorporated.
3. Rolling out the dough before chilling it is a smart move.
Most sugar cookie recipes have you chill the dough before you roll it out, but we argue your best bet is to actually roll out the dough before chilling it. Rolling out just-made cookie dough is a whole lot easier, since it's soft and pliable. After rolling it, chill it in the fridge for about 30 minutes before grabbing the cookie cutters. This way you won't need to worry that the dough is so cold from the fridge that it's impossible to roll out.
4. The dough freezes well for up to 1 month.
Sugar cookie dough is one of the best doughs to freeze, thanks to its high butter (aka fat) content. Simply wrap the piece of dough tightly in plastic wrap and freeze. Don't forget to label it! When you need it, thaw the dough overnight in the refrigerator before rolling, cutting, and baking. You can also roll the dough out between parchment or wax paper, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and freeze it. It will only take a few minutes to thaw on the counter and then you can cut out the cookies and bake.
5. The cookies are done before they're golden-brown.
Most cookie recipes call for baking until they are golden-brown — sugar cookies are the exception to the rule. If you've baked them until the edges turn a golden hue, they're overbaked — they'll be hard and crunchy instead of soft, tender, and chewy. Make sure to bake them until they just start to get a hint of color and they look slightly crackled across the center.